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Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman
High peak and RMS power
Magnetic shielding to reduce noise
Auto on/off circuit
Port noise and rattling at high volumes
Reportedly not as reliable as the competition
Gets muddy and distorted with very low frequencies
The Polk Audio PSW505 Subwoofer is a very popular option among home theater enthusiasts. It’s high powered and produces quality audio for the cost, but we found that it’s limited by some fairly significant drawbacks. As a budget subwoofer, the PSW505 is a good product, but there are other options on the market that you may want to consider.
The Polk Audio PSW505 Subwoofer is one of two budget home subwoofers that is likely to show up in almost every audio forum. Its affordable price, high powered amplifier, and quality speaker all make it a popular choice for home stereos and theaters. We took a deeper look at the PSW505 to see how it stacks up against the competition.
The PSW505 has a typical budget speaker cabinet. It’s made from MDF with a black laminate surface, measures 16.125 x 15.125 x 18.1875 inches, and weighs 48 pounds. It has a slot styled port towards the bottom of the back panel. The cabinet is solidly constructed but the detachable front speaker grill is not as durable.
The PSW505 is powerful but has some minor sound quality issues.
The whole cabinet sits on four plastic feet, which means the PSW505 slides around on our wood floor when it’s bumping, and we’ve found it “wandering” when used at high volumes. The front-firing 12-inch throw speaker is all black, so removing the grill doesn’t really make the subwoofer look any better.
The PSW505 isn’t the most attractive subwoofer but it’s not ugly either—it’s just kind of plain. Our major complaints are with the porting, which tends to produce audible noise, and the plastic feet’s failure to keep the sub in place on smooth surfaces. Overall, the design is functional but bland.
Set up is very simple, as expected. We plugged in the power, hooked up it up to our receiver, and started working on placement. Finding the right spot for the PSW505 was a little more difficult than the other subs we tested because of the port size and location on the cabinet, which mean the sub requires more wall clearance.
We started our testing process with some bass-heavy music, adjusting the volume and low pass filter until we were happy with the results. We didn’t need to reverse the phase and kept the switch on 0°. We got it in the range we wanted and then tested it out with a variety of other music genres and a handful of action films.
The PSW505 is powerful but has some minor sound quality issues. A common complaint is port noise, which we also encountered. It was only noticeable at high volumes for us and we have a small enough space that we’re never going to be cranking a subwoofer that loud, but it could be a problem when trying to fill a larger room. Some users have gone so far as to build custom cabinets and transfer the amp and speaker into them instead of using the original.
We also noticed that the lowest frequencies can get muddy and distorted at times.The problem was most noticeable with music, but not an issue with movies.
The subwoofer is more than capable of shaking the room with its boomy and powerful bass. One of the best parts of owning a subwoofer is feeling the bass during an intense scene in a movie, and even at 50 percent volume we were very happy with the impact.
The Polk Audio PSW505 generally retails for around $300, but one of the reasons that it’s such a popular budget option is that it regularly goes on sale, and can sometimes be found for under $200. That’s a huge value for such a powerful subwoofer, so if you’re considering the PSW505, wait for the deep discounts.
That’s a huge value for such a powerful subwoofer, so if you’re considering the PSW505, wait for the deep discounts.
At $300 there are other subwoofers that outperform the PSW505, like the Bic Acoustech PL-200 II. For $200 though, the PSW505 makes a more convincing argument.
The BIC Formula F12 is only slightly less powerful when it comes to peak performance. While the PSW505 is 460 watts, the Formula F12 comes in at 450 watts. There is a significant difference in RMS power (root mean square, the amount of power a subwoofer can handle continuously for extended periods of time, as compared to the maximum wattage it can cope with in brief bursts) though. The PSW505 boasts 300 watts while the Formula F12 is only 150 watts. Despite the Formula F12’s RMS power being half that of the PSW505, it’s still very loud and has a number of advantages.
Each subwoofer has volume and crossover control, a phase switch, on/standby/off switch, magnetic shielding, gold plated terminals, and RCA sub inputs. The Formula F12 has a different port that we prefer over the PSW505 and doesn’t produce the same noise problem. It also doesn’t get as hot as the PSW505 does after extended use.
The major problem with the PSW505 is that it is reportedly not as reliable as the BIC Formula F12. Reviews and forums report a significant failure rate, ranging from simply not turning on, to smoking and melting components. People also report that BIC America has much better customer service, while Polk Audio’s is nearly non-existent.
Overall we like the design, aesthetics and sound of the Formula F12 more than the PSW505. We found less muddiness and distortion with the Formula F12 and no cabinet or port noise, except when used at extreme volumes. Both are good subs at affordable prices and perform well, but reliability is important, so we lean towards the Formula F12.
A decent choice in a crowded field.
The Polk Audio PSW505 Subwoofer is a little controversial because of its high failure rate and some minor sound quality issues. For the price, however, it’s decent value, producing impactful low end that’s reasonably articulate at moderate volume. If price is a big consideration, the PSW505 is a good budget option in a growing field of competition.